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#PressforProgress: Celebrating the Few & the Mighty in Connectivity

by Edie Winters | Mar 7, 2018 | Female Entrepreneurs |

2018 marks my 17th year with the cable industry - nearly two decades of being surrounded by the root of all technology and the systems that allow us to use all of the apps that we love so much. Plenty of time to reflect to reflect on its inner workings, and in particular, the amazing women I have met along the way.

March 8th is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme #PressforProgress calls on us all to unite and for communities to think, act, and be gender inclusive. This is a goal I’ve actively worked on, and though the numbers paint a picture of a male-led industry, the women of cable continue to grow both in quantity and impact.

Thinking about how the industry was founded among family-run businesses, it’s interesting to me how much the dynamic has shifted. The connectivity ecosystem is a tech-oriented one, which has broadly struggled with maintaining gender equity. Research shows that women in cable are relatively well-represented as upper-level managers and executives at approximately 30%, and hold approximately 28% of board seats in the industry - a low number, but still above the national benchmark of 21%.

And it’s certainly not an issue that’s being ignored. Organizations such as WICT (Women in Cable Technology) have taken on the task of bringing together those who are in the sector, along with launching initiatives to increase that number, including ranking the ‘best companies to work at’ for women (Comcast, Cox, Midco, and Mediacom topped the most recent results).

The numbers show improvement, and I am encouraged by the progress I see each year.  I hope you get energized, as I have, by some of the women I have met and influenced me and so many others.  

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Dr. Arianne Hinds is a Principal Architect at CableLabs

I have the honor of working with some of the most inspiring women in the business on a daily basis. Dr. Arianne Hinds is a Principal Architect at CableLabs, and was awarded the 2017 WICT Rocky Mountain Woman in Technology for her work in making videos look better and stream faster.  Working with her and Debbie Fitzgerald, also a CableLabs Principal Architect, is a powerful reminder that women in the cable industry are making significant, visible differences - even with smaller numbers.

Former CableLabs board member Amy Tykeson has similarly inspired me. She launched her cable career with Home Box Office in the marketing team, advancing to VP of Marketing in New York before leaving in 1988 to work with BendBroadband. She was President and CEO there from 1997 to 2014, where she drove the company to focus on customers and giving back to the community. Other industry inspirations include Bernee Strom, who has covered all professional bases after switching from being a mathematics professor to Founder/CEO of eight companies; and Amy Banse, the Managing Director and Head of Funds at Comcast Ventures. She’s spent the past two decades investing in, starting, and building companies at Comcast and has been with the company since 1991.

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Enrica Porcari led a 2016 project to provide wireless access to Syrians in refugee camps

Women are inspiring change in the way we connect outside of the direct industry as well. Last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I saw World Food Programme Chief Information Officer Enrica Porcari speak about the project she launched in 2016 to provide wireless access to Syrian refugees in the Domiz refugee camp. The project, called Emergency Telecommunications Cluster Connectivity for Communities, has allowed refugees to keep in touch with their families, continue developing their professional skills, educate themselves, and plan for their futures.

Perhaps above all, we owe a large gratitude to Yolanda Barco, a woman whose achievements directly impacted the success of the cable-telecoms industry. Not only did she join the industry in 1953, when the industry was at its grassroots, she was also the first woman to be elected to the National Cable Television Association board of directors and the first woman to be elected President of a state cable industry association. But Yolanda wasn’t a token - she made that clear.

My favorite part of the cable industry is that it was built on entrepreneurship. Many of the large operators that own billions of dollars in market share today began as small, family-run businesses - many of them owned by husband-and-wife teams, such as Betsy and Bob Magness, who founded what would become Tele-Communications, Inc. in Texas in 1952, which would become AT&T Broadband and Internet Services. The female involvement in cable isn’t new - in fact, it’s one of the original building blocks.

As we’ve seen, women have been - and continue to - play a small but mighty role in allowing us to connect to each other in every way. I’m grateful to those who laid the groundwork for us, and whose stories motivate me to #PressforProgress in this industry and to those who continue the push, like Lisa Schwab, Program Director of UpRamp.

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